While Indian media is excited about the 20 odd Indian-Americans appointed in the Joe Biden administration, there is hardly a squeak on those who did not make it to the list. Biden has excluded Barack Obama administration staffer Sonal Shah and Amit Jani — the latter was a Biden campaigner — apparently allegedly due to their RSS-BJP links.
Pointed out by over a dozen Indian-American organisations, the skew in the constitution of the team of the US president is evident from the inclusion of certain people. Senior diplomat Uzra Zeya had played a role in the Devyani Khobragade case. Samira Fazili had joined protest rallies in the US against the CAA, NRC and the Kashmir lockdown. Aisha Shah is another Kashmiri Muslim in the team. She was the digital partnerships manager in the Biden campaign.
Key omissions in Team Biden
Obama administration ex-staffer Sonal Shah had served in Biden’s unity task force. Her father was Overseas Friends of BJP-USA chief and founded RSS-run Ekal Vidyalaya.
Amit Jani was the ‘Muslim Outreach’ coordinator of ‘Name Biden’ campaign. His family reportedly has ties with Prime Minister Modi and other BJP leaders.
Indian-Americans with an RSS-BJP connection have not found a place as self-proclaimed secular Indian-American organisations maintain the pressure on the Biden-Harris transition team to keep such individuals at bay, said sources in the US administration.
In the wake of renewed activism by organisations opposed to Hindutva and also after witnessing the fate of such candidates, the Democrats has been more circumspect in accommodating pro-BJP-RSS elements in the government, the sources said.
Congressional candidate Sri Preston Kulkarni lost the elections after strident opposition from Indian-American organisations. Former US Congressperson Tulsi Gabbard lost political ground because of this reason too, people of Indian origin who have known the American society for decades as migrants told Sirf News. They note that, the improvement in India-US relations in leaps and bounds and simultaneous deterioration of the American relations with Pakistan for the past two decades notwithstanding, Christian Americans still find some affinity in the Islamic community whereas Hindus come across as members of an alien culture. Further, they say, the Democrats have traditionally had a soft corner for Islamists, contrary to the Republicans.
While Sonal Shah served on Biden’s unity task force, her father was the president of Overseas Friends of BJP-USA. He is also the founder of RSS-run Ekal Vidyalaya for which Sonal raised funds.
Jani perhaps had, on the other hand, nobody to lobby for his candidacy. He was Biden campaign’s ‘Muslim Outreach’ coordinator and he was also re-appointed National Asian American and Pacific Islander Director, but Islamists already in Team Biden pointed out that his family had ties with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders.
Nineteen Indian-American organisations that are either communist, Islamist or apologists of missionaries operating in India made sure the Biden administration did not backtrack on excluding those with RSS-BJP links. They wrote to Biden, complaining that many south Asian-American individuals with ties to “far-right” Hindu organisations in India were affiliated to the Democrats as party members.